Sunday, 6 November 2016


Never in its history has so much cultural and historic diversity been present in North America.  The Catholic Church has a serious problem with this diversity. The difficulties include gender (including sexual orientation and women), cultural identity (African, Asian, Latin American, Indigenous) as well as the diversity inherent in human relationships with the earth (air, water, land) as well as its many living creatures). The difficulty derives not so much from its religious sources as from the way in which the Catholic Church has absorbed many of the historical biases of its cultural setting derived from Europe especially including its implication in the whole process of colonization. The emphasis on monotheism to the exclusion of other deities also plays a role[1]
Many theologians are working on these questions following the lead of major thinkers who have analyzed our collective history from the point of view of various disciplines (sociology, anthropology, psychology) in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. We can learn from them.
Far be it from me to attempt to unravel, especially here in an informal blog, the complicated ways in which the Church perpetuates its barriers to full recognition and appreciation of diversity within its midst and around it. Suffice it to say that a broad descriptive study is needed followed by a thorough deconstruction of the resulting mechanisms and a call for action to reconstruct our religious tradition in ways that go beyond the current impasse.
At the very least, it needs to be said that the underlying foundations for the problems with diversity in the Catholic Church are multi-layered. These include its hierarchical structure and the allocation of privilege and power and its omnipresent patriarchy. Some have suggested that clerical privilege has formed a culture of sociopathy. At work in this clerical culture is an institutional mentality that favours the personal interests of those who wield power and that separates them from the world of those they are called to serve in such a way that it is difficult for them to understand the needs of others.[2] It must also be said that there is an underlying racism inherent in an uncritical reading of the scriptures and fostered by a culture of superiority rooted ultimately in strands of Judaism and also the understanding of citizenship in the Roman Empire. These roots were exacerbated by European attitudes beginning in the 16th century during contact with Africa and the New World of “America.”
However, beyond searching for the sources of the Church’s difficulty with diversity, we need also to consider the foundations for welcoming diversity. There is the question of welcoming of unmarried couples, gay marriages, divorced couples and women in ministry. As well we need to reconsider the inculturations of faith among Indigenous peoples in Africa, in North and also South America. There is a particular urgency with regard to the reception of other religious traditions. Are we willing to admit that God has been at work in Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Indigenous traditions ( to name a few) and that God works through those traditions to advance the fullness of God’s reign in the world? I would argue that an examination of those Indigenous tradition embracing a multiplicity of deities provides an interesting template for examining the dangers of the kind of monotheism proposed by the “Religions of the Book” (Jewish, Christian and Islam).
Already scholars have made several approaches in this reflection . Some have proposed to examine the communalities in belief or moral values. There is also the approach that considers those social concerns on which we can collaborate through interreligious coalitions much as we have done for several decades in ecumenical work. However, I would like to suggest that the foundational work needs to be done from an understanding of who we are as humans. Unfortunately, modern capitalist culture has handed over to us a view of the human as an atomized consumer. This goes against the grain of practically all traditional cultures, including those of Western Europe until fairly recently. Along with many eminent thinkers I would like to suggest that community is a basic starting point for understanding being human and further that this relationship in community is a fundamental starting point for understanding diversity in inter-religious  and social dialogue. Moreover, I would like to suggest that Bernard Lonergan’s insistence on the capacity of humans to engage in an endless search for meaning and worth reveals an openness to the transcendent that is at the very heart of being human. If this is so then the great spiritual and religious traditions of the world find a profound common ground in these dimensions of being human.

[1] See the reflection of Elochukuw Kuzukum, “Multiplicity of Deities in Indigenous Religions of West Africa,” Religion, Human Dignity and Liberation, edited by Gerald M. Boodoo, World Forum on Theology and Liberation, 2016 (Oiso Editora). The reflection of Marcelo Barros, “The World Social forum: A Secular Mysticism and Inter-religious Dialogue” in the same volume is also helpful.
[2] See A. W. Richard Sipe. Two excerpts from his book “Sexual Abuse in the Church, Plante & McChesney, Eds. 2011 were reprinted in the Island Catholic News (Victoria, B.C.) 2016 (Summer and Autumn edition). 

Sunday, 28 August 2016


César Vallejo was an important Peruvian poet of the early 20th century (+ 1938). I have always particularly admired his collection Los Heraldos Negros. They are dark but extraordinarily heartfelt and compassionate.  Here is one in the original Spanish (not hard to translate with google translate).

Siento a Dios que camina
tan en mí, con la tarde y con el mar.
Con él nos vamos juntos. Anochece.
Con él anochecemos. Orfandad ...

Pero yo siento a Dios. Y hasta parece
que él me dicta no sé qué buen color.
Como un hospitalario, es bueno y triste;
mustia un dulce desdén de enamorado;
debe dolerle mucho el corazón.

O Dios mío, recién a tí me llego,
hoy que amo tanto en esta tarde, hoy
que en la falsa balanza de unos sueños,
mido y lloro una frágil Creación.
Y tú, cuál llorás. .. tú, enamorado
de tanto enorme seno girador. ..
Yo te consagro Dios, porque amas tanto;
porque jamás sonríes, porque siempre
debe dolerte mucho el corazón.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


    I think it's time we had a closer look at what Bernie Sanders has effectively accomplished. He has gained the support of millions of young people who are about to vote for the first time. Most of all he has led them directly into the camp of Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party Establishment. He has added millions of votes to the presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton and thus given her a really significant boost.
     This may not be what he intended but, it is what he did. And his efforts need to be evaluated on that point.
     Well over and above the "Trump phenomenon," there is something quite disturbing about this aspect of America politics at this point.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The World Social Forum 2016 as well as the parallel World Forum on Theology and Liberation are
less than two months away and the preparations are moving along rapidly - and well.

You can find up-to-date information about both Forums by visiting their respective sites. They are easily accessed by googling WSF2016 and, for the other, ROJEP.  The detailed program of the Theology Forum is already available at the ROJEP site.

The detailed World Social Forum program should be available very shortly. (The team is laying out times and places for the workshops today!) Both are extremely dense with content and challenge.

The World Social Forum will take place in Montreal, largely at UQAM (The University of Quebec at Montreal) from August 9-14. The World Forum on Theology and Liberation will take place at the Jean-de-Brebeuf College in Montreal on August 8 and 13 with the other days being devoted to the activities of the World Social Forum and with a full program of workshops sponsored by the World Forum on Theology and Liberation.

In order to attend the World Social Forum you need to register ($20 for the week). In order to attend the World Forum on Theology and Liberation you must do the same and ALSO register at ROJEP ($25 - which includes some meals).

Three hundred participants are expected at the Forum on Theology and Liberation and 50,000 at the World Social Forum.

This year there is a special effort to move the World Social Forum from word to action. So, beyond the 1000 workshops in three days, there will also be extensive time given to the work of convergence leading to the open-air Agora (Marketplace) on Saturday where participants will be challenged to hone their action-proposals down to five major world-wide actions to form a program for follow-up to the forum.

It should also be a very festive occasion with the prominent participation of well-known speakers, artists, film-makers and musicians.

Please do come !! - and bring your ideas and hopes with you.